While I love BMW’s Z4, when a chance comes my way to test another hot sports car, let’s just say, I can be convinced. For the past couple of years, Porsche has held marketing events on local race tracks to introduce owners and potential owners to their cars. This year’s event was held at Monticello Motorsports Park in upstate NY and featured several of their hottest new models. The two that go head to head with BMW’s Z4 line are Porsche’s Boxster and Boxster S. However, if you plan to drive your sports car on a car club track day, the drop top BMWs are often barred from these events because they lack a roof. Enter the Porsche Cayman. These cars are closed “coupes” with the soul of a Boxster.
The Basics – In 1996, Porsche brought the mid-engine Boxster to an eager world and it has proved itself to be one of the market’s most entertaining sports cars. To everyone’s surprise (or at least to mine) they followed up their success with the Boxster with a hard top version called the Cayman. It too has the motor behind the driver and in front of the rear wheels (by definition – mid-engine). Because of the added chassis stiffness, it was another instant hot, on-the-track success (but, please, let’s not discuss the styling). In fact, friend David Donohue won his class at the Daytona 24 Hour race in a Porsche Cayman.
For 2014, the Cayman comes in two flavors. The base Cayman sports 275 horses boasting a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds and the Cayman S that gets to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds thanks to its 325 HP. Besides the added power, the S has better brakes and rims/tires one inch bigger in diameter.
On the Track – I started my test with the base Cayman and was impressed with the fit and finish of the heavily-leather clad interior. Acres of dead cow and high quality plastic tell you that some of the $52,600 sticker price goes into making the driver comfortable. And they didn’t scrimp on the comfortable and supportive seats. Power, while not neck snapping, was adequate and entertaining. Brakes, 4 piston discs up front and rear, got rid of speed safely and without drama. But it was in the corners that the Cayman brought the smile to my face.
In the Cayman S, I can immediately feel the 50 extra horsepower as I accelerated away from Monticello’s up-hill pit lane. Again, not neck snapping but definitely more that adequate to the task. Brakes are Porsche’s red “S” models and they are outstanding. In the corners, I could not detect a significant difference between the S and the base Cayman – it’s definitely subtle but I like to think I could feel the added grip.
Summary – The Cayman is pure Porsche. It is stylish, powerful and fun. It’s also, like the Z4 line BMWs, practical for every day driving. By this I mean, you can drive the Cayman to the super market, find a safe parking spot away from shopping carts and come home with a few bags of groceries and a big smile. Not something you can do in a Ferrari!
For my money, the base Cayman is the sleeper in this market. On the road – not the track – it’s better than 80% of the cars out there. Faster, has better handling and brakes and gets decent gas mileage (20 city, 30 highway). Even if you drive the occasional PCA track day, the Cayman will be better in all dimensions than most of the other Porsches in pit lane, save GT3s and Turbos.
Looking for a cool sports car but don’t want a convertible, test a Porsche Cayman. You’ll thank me later.